Is Cabin Fever Setting In?

16th April 2020

Homeworker Richard Rankin, Chief Executive writes his diary during the third week of lockdown
I am sure everyone is experiencing the side effects, and those not self-isolating must be feeling the strangeness of a much calmer world that was once in such a rush.   However quiet it may feel, we must remember that behind the scenes there are people fighting for their lives and even more importantly appreciate the amazing group of people trying, against all odds, to save those lives.  It is a very humbling thought. 

April is Stress Awareness Month and aside of the near and present danger of Covid-19, there is a secondary impact, the effect it is having on our mental health.  As the days turn into weeks and the weeks inevitably into months, now is most definitely a time to ensure that you look after your health and mental wellbeing, to prevent the feeling of stress and anxiety and their negative implications.  It is, therefore, no coincidence that the Government is constantly encouraging daily exercise to get the heart pumping and to breathe in fresh air and the benefits of Vitamin D.  So it is important to ensure that we all make the effort to safely take advantage of this.

As we approached Easter weekend, despite the glorious weather many of us were subdued and very aware of the safety procedures in place.  My worry was that in providing one safety net, it could produce a very detached society.  I therefore read with interest an article, which purposefully used the phrase, “physical distancing” rather than social distancing.  The rationale being that during these difficult times it’s even more important to remain socially close and in contact continuously, whilst maintaining the crucial physical distancing to protect ourselves, others and of course the NHS.  I liked this and find it a very appropriate way of thinking about our current situation as we must remain connected in any way possible and for this I am grateful to technology.  Keeping in touch with my team, I was both entertained and impressed by their ingenuity as they reported dens being built by children, completing jigsaws, creating a home circuit workout, barbecues in the garden, baking together, catching up on a good book or jobs in the house that were long overdue!

As a Group, almost especially during these uncertain times, it is crucial H&H continues to support the farming community. H&H Land & Estates, is continuing to trade land and farms, and are advising on land and scheme matters.  To ensure the food supply chain continues, our Harrison and Hetherington auctioneers are continuing to trade livestock. Of course in many instances traditional trading and working practices have had to change.  With the uncertainty of being able to conduct our forthcoming Carlisle Pedigree Breed Society Sales in situ, we will now conduct these through online ‘Timed Auction Sales’.  These are huge steps forwards for us and quite a change from the face to face buzz of the sale ring, but innovation is now a necessity.  The annual Spring Dairy Bull Sale was launched on Friday to starts the series with an impressive number of entries.

As I, like all of us, start the third week of lock-down it is reassuring to see how we’ve adapted and can continue to offer the wide range of services that agri-businesses need at this time.  In particular, our insurance arm, H&H Insurance Brokers, is still helping farmers to insure their livelihoods, especially in-light of any diversification required as a result of Covid-19.  Ensuring the process is as easy as possible, they are very busy helping with processing claims on existing policies, which were set up in better times to overcome the unexpected.  We find ourselves in unexpected times and I am very thankful that we can help and offer advice to farmers finding themselves unable to open their enterprises to the public at a peak time such as Easter.  These are our customers who perhaps operate B&Bs, holiday lets, ice cream parlours, farm shops, cafes and other diversified businesses.

Following the pause on the residential sales market last week, we feared that this would impact the land sales market, however, we have been encouraged to bring to the market several parcels of land across Cumbria.  And, I am pleased to see that is proving to be in demand, this is perhaps due to the fact that people at home have plenty of time at the moment to search for property.

Another welcome surprise this week came during H&H Reeds Printers weekly Zoom meeting.  Cumbria Council got in contact needing 30,000 Coronavirus advice leaflets printing for a local door drop.  The team worked the weekend for Monday delivery, all within social distancing guidelines of course!  And just when we thought it would all go quiet again, another request came in from Cumbria Police.  This demonstrates how unpredictable the market is, yet encouraging our teams can step up the plate when it matters.

I am reassured now that the British public heeded advice over the Easter weekend with most staying at home. Now that it looks like we are going to be in this a while longer, the message remains the same – stay home and stay safe!


Richard Rankin, CEO